The Gradual week 1
Summary - Chapters 1-6)
- We are given a brief intro to our character. He is a musician, composer, sometimes criminal and fugitive, and later 'an inadvertent traveller in time'. We are introduced to the concept of 'the gradual' - at least empirically speaking. The gradual is a process that, like ageing, unfolds too slowly to notice most of the time. Music and Warfare are to be constant themes of his life.
- Our character is introduced as Alessandro Susskin. He tells us of his childhood in costal Errest, a provincial industrial city in Glaund with what was once a significant arts scene. His father was a first violinist with the philharmonic, and his mother a touring opera singer. Both put their careers on hold when the war closed the scene. They took to teaching. Sandro is a violinist and pianist, but also plays guitar and recorder and composes. His brother Jacj is also a violinist, but hopes to become a lawyer if he can avoid the draft. Sandro tells us about how one day he climbed into the attic and from there spotted his first islands. These made an indelible impression on his life, and he began to dream.
- And agreement is made between Glaund and Faiandland to move the theatre of war to the south continent. That means that local bombing will cease, but warfare will continue. When Jacj turns 18, he is drafted into service. His parents try to convince him to hide in the mountains to the north, but he declines. His plan is to observe and document the war, which he considers illegal, and to make a legal case against it on his return. Shortly after he receives the letter, he boards a grey bus and departs.
- Sandro takes a job with a munitions manufacturer at the age of 16. This work allows him to avoid the draft. He spends the next 11 years gets his first recital, a landscape inspired peace called Breath which he performs with his friend, Alynna Rosson, on violin. He himself plays piano. After the recital, both are moved to tears, but for very different reasons. He is pleased, but she is very upset by the pauses in the music, which were marked red in the score and left her feeling alone. She leaves abruptly, declining to perform it again.
- Now in his thirties, Sandro has a chance to offer a piece to a record company for a compilation album. They agree to take a chamber piece called Dianme, which is inspired by a local offshore island and it's mythology. The piece is published to little local acclaim.
- Sandro sends another piece, Tidal Symbols, to the record company and they agree to record it. He travels to Glaund City for the recording and once again meets Alynna. Many years have passed and this time they hit it off. He also meets a composer named Denn Mytrie from the island of Muriseay, here on cultural exchange. Denn's piece will be on the other side of the album. Denn seems to be an admirer of Sandro's piece, Dianme, and tells him it has been receiving radio play in the islands. Not only will Denn and Sandro become friends, but four months later Sandro marries Alynna.
- Based on the first few sections, are you feeling a warming trend or a cold front toward the novel?
- There are some familiar setting elements. The nature of this war seems to have varied a bit from story to story, but Priest sets up this specific variation up front. The artists don't seem to be the destructive individuals they are in The Islanders, but time will tell, I assume.
- Why do you think Alynna was moved so by the performance of Breath?
- In the opening section, Sandro tells us about the ultimate fate of many people. Why? Does it bother you?
- The marriage - why has Priest chosen to write about it this way, do you think?